Tag Archives: grace

Titus: Physical vs. Spiritual

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Titus 3:3-8 – For (F)we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.But when (G)the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, (H)not because of works done by us in righteousness, but (I)according to his own mercy, by (J)the washing of regeneration and (K)renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he (L)poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,so that (M)being justified by his grace we might become (N)heirs (O)according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is (P)trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful (Q)to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Paul offers a nice contrast again, following on the heels of the last section of Scripture. In the last lesson, we learned that he wanted the believers to be submissive to authorities and to be ready for good works, displaying their faith in the crooked Cretan world. In this passage he reminds them that they (including himself) too were once depraved and enslaved to their passions. Perhaps this was his way of encouraging them so that they could see their new identity and not despair or be discouraged about their former life or habits. 2 Cor 5:17 tells us that we are a new creation. We were slaves to sin, now we belong to Christ. In Eph 2:1-3 Paul also writes about the believer’s former life. We used to be “children of wrath,” and we were dead in our sins. We lived out the passions of our flesh and carried out the desires of our body. It’s just not a pretty sight, folks. But there’s always good news right around the corner.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared…” There’s that appeared word again (epiphaneo). God’s goodness and love broke through as the light of dawn. And when our Savior appeared, He saved us. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

To be certain that no one forgets what their role in salvation is, Paul writes that God saved us not because of works that we do, but He saved us in His mercy. This echoes his teaching in Eph 2:8-9 – it is by grace we have been saved through faith (not of ourselves). As if this weren’t great news already, God also uses the Holy Spirit to regenerate and renew us. Regeneration is basically new birth (after all, we were dead in sins and we needed to be made alive again). This Spirit has been poured out on us richly through Christ. I don’t know about you, but the image of the Spirit being poured out sounds abundant, and then he adds the word richly, which just accentuates the lavish abundance even further! The good news just got even better.

As we keep reading, it might feel like we’ve just won the lottery (actually it’s even better than that). First Paul speaks of being justified by His grace. To be justified meant to be pardoned or cleared from guilt; to absolve or acquit from guilt and merited punishment, and to accept as righteous on account of the merits of the Savior or by the application of Christ’s atonement to the offender (Webster’s 1828). What it boils down to is that we get something we didn’t deserve. We get Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our dead, sinful lives. It’s extravagant grace. And it makes no sense.

So God declares us righteous and then raises us as His heirs. Again, this makes no sense! We become children of the King. This is the hope we have, that He has promised us an inheritance of eternal life (See also 1 John 2:25, Heb 6:17-18, 1 Cor 1:22, Eph 4:30, Eph 1:11-14).

He closes with the call to good works again. He presents quite the case for why we should be devoted to good works. It only makes sense given the gravity of all Christ has done for us! They will know we belong to Him by our fruit (good works). The works are simply the evidence of our faith. It reveals our devotion to Him. And these things are excellent (because they bring glory to God) and profitable (because they bring others to God). May we be careful to devote ourselves to good works.

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Titus: Who is Grace?

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Titus 2:11-3:2 –  11 For (T)the grace of God (U)has appeared, bringing salvation (V)for all people,12 training us to renounce ungodliness and (W)worldly passions, and (X)to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in (Y)the present age, 13 (Z)waiting for our blessed (AA)hope, the (AB)appearing of the glory of our great (AC)God and Savior Jesus Christ,14 (AD)who gave himself for us to (AE)redeem us from all lawlessness and (AF)to purify for himself (AG)a people for his own possession who are (AH)zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and (AI)rebuke with all authority. (AJ)Let no one disregard you. Remind them (A)to be submissive to rulers and authorities, (B)to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, (C)to speak evil of no one, (D)to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and (E)to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Grace Came

 I love the beginning of verse 11 – “for the grace of God has appeared….” Paul says this right after telling the bondservants to “adorn the doctrine of God.” You can follow his train of thought as he masterfully explains that we should live our lives in such a way that reflects our Savior for it was by God’s grace that we are saved! “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). The grace of God has appeared, and that grace is Christ. When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son.

Isn’t it just beautiful? I learned that the word appeared is the Greek word epiphaneo meaning clearly known, fully visible. It is a picture of the rising sun as it bursts forth at dawn. Christ is the Light that shines in the darkness! The word grace in the Greek is charis and means the unmerited, merciful, kindness and favor of God. This grace that came was self-motivated (had no other motive but itself), ever-acting (never ending action), stooping (from the Hebrew word for grace, chen, meaning to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior), and pardoning (brings forgiveness).

Grace is Here

Grace came, and it is here to train us. It trains us to put away/deny and to put on/pursue. We are to put away/deny 1) ungodliness (anything contrary to the knowledge, fear, and love of God. and 2) worldly passions (fleshly desires and lusts). We are to put on/pursue 1) self-controlled lives (our inward, bridled strength), 2) upright lives (outward display of our inward character), and 3) godly lives (upward focus).

Grace is Coming Back

As we live out our self-controlled, upright, godly lives, we await a blessed hope! We have the assurance that Christ will return for us. It is an expectant, trusting wait. He came first for the cross in humility, and at His second coming He will come for the crown as the honored King!

The Work of Grace

By God’s grace, He sent His Son who gave Himself for us to redeem us and purify us. This is the work of grace – redemption and sanctification. He redeemed us and purified us for His own possession. We have been set apart for the King. We are reserved for God. We are His possession. We belong to God.

Reminders

Paul finishes this section with some reminders for Titus. He instructs him to teach about submission to authority, and in this case, to rulers. To avoid fights, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people. It’s as if he wants the believers to stand out as different from those around them. After all, they are the redeemed who have been set apart for the service of the King. And this King will be coming again! So in the meantime, let them reflect their Savior.

Strength and Dignity

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I have a dear friend who posted this meme on Facebook the other day:

strong-woman

I love the message! Don’t you? When you think of a strong person, you imagine someone with great physical strength who can rip apart lions (King David) or wield a donkey’s jawbone in a heated battle (Samson). Strong people are capable of tearing right through their obstacles, right? A sign of strength is how easily you can defeat an opponent or enemy. A person who shows weakness is the one who is meek and bows out of the fight, right? Uh. no. Not in this case.

Why is it that we buy into the lie that in order to be a strong person, we need to make everyone else around us feel weak? A brother or sister in Christ is not an obstacle to tear right through. We do not need to try to defeat one another in an effort to show how strong we are. Likewise we do not show weakness when we are meek and defer to another. On the contrary, this is great strength indeed.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13)

Both Moses (Numbers 12:3) and Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:1) are described as meek or humble. There’s no way anyone would consider either of these men as being weak.

You do not prove your strength by belittling another person. You actually prove that you have weak character for it is in the way you treat another that reveals your heart.

I am grieved by what I hear week after week about the way women treat one another. The comparison game is deadly. It’s more like Russian Roulette than Candy Land. What I’ve seen is a twisted form of religious pompousness rather than a real life relationship with another sister. {Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also seen the real life relationships that genuinely bring encouragement and love to each person.}

Here’s what I mean: convictions for an individual quickly become measuring sticks for spiritual maturity.Well, I’m a stay at home mom, and if you aren’t a stay at home mom, that means you’re not a good Christian” “I homeschool my children because it’s the best way to raise a child, and if you don’t homeschool then you must be a lesser Christian.” “You aren’t married? Why not? You don’t have children? Why not?” I am giving up all I know to be a missionary and if you don’t want to do missions that means you don’t really love Christ or the lost.” 

Do I need to go on? Now I doubt that any thinking person would actually say any of those statements. But attitudes can speak for themselves. None of these convictions ever need to be a badge we wear to reveal how spiritual or devoted to God we are. God forbid.

Another dear friend of mine used to always say “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Why do we compare ourselves at all? If we compare ourselves in order to puff ourselves up, we have failed. If we compare ourselves to heap guilt on ourselves, we have failed. Put your measuring sticks far away, and instead of spending your time scrutinizing yourself or another person, take the time to appreciate another sister or appreciate the gifts and path God has given to you.

You can have your convictions and still value another sister’s obedience to God, even if it looks completely different from your own! And let me not even get started on how utterly arrogant it is to think that you or I have anything to do with our holiness or acceptance before God. We don’t wear badges, we actually receive crowns and even then we acknowledge that those crowns deserve to be at the feet of Jesus.

And we sing,

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. (Revelation 4:11)

{So technically that passage is referring to the 24 elders, but you get the idea.}

He alone is worthy. And it is God who created us to the Body of Christ who serves one another with special gifts in order to edify the whole Church. Edify, not tear down. Nourish and lift up, not weaken or destroy.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

God prepared good works for each of us before we even knew we belonged to Him in order that we could walk around on His earth as the hands and feet of Jesus. We are His ambassadors with marching orders to reconcile people back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). To reconcile! Not to draw people away from Him with our selfish motives.

We don’t need to clamor for His attention, trying to draw His gaze toward us, hoping that He’ll take notice of how great we are. No! We humbly submit to the One who is worthy of all glory and honor and power. We can do this by walking in those good works that He’s prepared for us to do. And some of those good works involve building up our brothers and sisters in Christ.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:25-26)

A woman with strength and dignity is wise and kind. Ironically she also recognizes her own weaknesses and even relishes in them, knowing that when she is weak, [He is] strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My sweet friend reminded me too that we need to be women full of grace for ourselves and for one another. We’re all going to fall, sometimes in small ways and other times in large ways. Wouldn’t you want someone to come alongside you and help you along rather than be put to shame by a sideways glance or a disappointed shaking of the head?

In case you’ve ever been hurt by a careless statement, consider first to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that woman did not mean to hurt your feelings nor make you feel like a lesser Christian. Sometimes people say stupid things, and those aren’t necessarily judgments about you. More often than not, that individual hasn’t considered the implications of her words and is simply expressing her (not-so-tactful) opinion or strongly held conviction.

Let us all be careful with our words for it is by those words that we will be judged (Matthew 12:37). Wouldn’t you rather spend your limited time here on earth using your words to build up and encourage? I thought so.

(P.S. I know more women who are getting this right than women who are getting this wrong. Christ has given us a beautiful and perfect example of love for His bride, and He’s called us to this same kind of love for each other. We are the bride of Christ, and the world will know we are His based on our love for each other! So go love!!) John 13:35

Grace for WHO?

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As we’ve been studying Jesus’ encounters with different women in the gospels, I can’t help but notice that we miss so much because our culture is worlds apart from their culture. All the legalism of their man-made rules, all the stigma surrounding women in the 1st century, all the no-no’s both in religious and civic life. It makes my head spin just thinking about the issues they faced that I never even have to worry about today.

We learned about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. She had three strikes against her. 1. She was a woman. 2. She was a Samaritan. 3. She was a sinner! And yet Jesus stops by this well where she had strategically planned to be during the heat of day (when no one else would be there). He asks for a drink and ends up weaving together the most beautiful conversation with this woman to reach her heart. With neither condemnation nor judgment, He gets to the heart of her spiritual thirst. And He pours her a tall glass of Living Water by the end of their exchange.

Then we read about the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7. Frankly, I think the story is as much about her as it is about the Pharisee with whom Jesus had been invited to dine. We tend to see this story with our 21st century eyes and stare aghast at Simon, the Pharisee, who seems to be quite judgmental of this woman. “If this man were really a prophet he would know what sort of a woman this was who was touching him,” he says to himself. “Wow, how rude!”, we think to ourselves.

But what does Jesus do? First of all, He let this woman touch Him. Don’t miss the scandal in this! She was a well-known sinner! She was called an “immoral woman” in some translations. We assume this means she was sexually promiscuous. Sinner=Unclean. If an unclean person touches you, in that culture, that means YOU become unclean. And these Jewish people took their ritual cleanliness seriously! They didn’t risk becoming unclean for just any reason, and especially not for a SINNER. Like I said, they had their man-made rules, in addition to the Law, which were far more strict (and not at all necessary!) that they followed to avoid becoming unclean.

Jesus, however, risks being religiously (politically) correct to give this woman His forgiveness. To give her dignity. He saw past her reputation, and although He was the only One who could have judged her, who could have condemned her, He speaks the words she had been dying inside to hear, “You are forgiven. Go in peace.”

We see this extreme demonstration of love and forgiveness for a sinful woman, one who receives grace because that’s how Jesus responds to sin. [That and dying for it.] But we don’t always see the other story playing alongside the woman’s redemption story. When Jesus either hears or perceives Simon’s comment about the woman, He starts in with a parable of a moneylender. There were two debtors. TWO of them. One owed 500 denarii and the other owed 50. TWO of them had debt. The moneylender forgave BOTH of them of their debt because NEITHER of them could pay it off. TWO debtors. Two UNABLE to pay back their debt. [Forgive my obnoxious all caps. Emphasis soon to be made clear…]  Jesus asks the Pharisee who of the two debtors loved the moneylender more. He doesn’t go into why they had piled up so much debt or ask who is more deserving of the forgiveness. Nope. He asks about love.

And why? Why does He make the moral of the story about love? He looks at the woman and speaks to Simon, revealing to him that her act of anointing His feet, in addition to the tears and wiping His dusty toes, is a greater example of love for Him than Simon’s hospitality toward Him. She had been forgiven much, so she loved much. It just makes sense.

But what is even more baffling to me is how Jesus chose to respond to the hypocritical and self-righteous attitude which Simon displayed on that day in his home. Just as Jesus did not condemn the sinful woman, neither does He condemn the Pharisee in his holier-than-thou approach toward the woman. Simon was the debtor! The one who owed 50 denarii. The one with the lesser debt, but still a DEBTOR nonetheless! Simon couldn’t pay his debt any more than the sinful woman could. All of us are sinners. Not one of us can pay the debt we owe to God. Even the most righteous of Pharisees needed the forgiveness of the only Righteous Judge. Yet the Pharisee could not love the way the greater debtor did. But Jesus treated him with dignity and helped him to see that God’s forgiveness is for all people. There is grace for the sinner, and there is grace for the self-righteous Pharisee.

*Sigh*

That Jesus. I love Him.

We are hopelessly lost in our sin whether we owe 50 or 500. Debt is debt. Our inability to pay up means we have need of a forgiving God. May we never forget. And may we see ourselves as the sinful woman because we realize we’ve been forgiven much.

The Flow of the Gift

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I kinda feel like I should apologize for my lack of posting in a verrrrrry long time. I fell into a rut, and I think I’ve finally climbed back out of it with some boosts from beneath. You see, I have so many thoughts about so many different things, that I could literally post something every day. It may be only one sentence, but sure enough, I could fill up a quota for the whole week. But my problem is that I don’t want to give anyone fluff. I guess that’s not a problem though. You don’t need FLUFF! (unless it’s in the form of whipped bubbles, because who doesn’t like playing with foamy bubbles?) What you need is God. And I need Him. In fact, I am a complete mess without Him.

So all of these thoughts, where are they? I certainly haven’t filled this blog with most of them. Here’s the rut: I began thinking that what I’ve had mulling over in my mind is not that important. In the grand scheme of things, I realize I am a drop in the bucket, no one of significance. But here’s the catch. In God’s kingdom, there’s no such thing as an insignificant person. Truly, He’s the most wonderful God for so many reasons, but to think that He gave every believer gifts so that we can all benefit one another is absolutely amazing. It’s Grace. Each one has a role to play. Each one is significant. And it’s because He says so, not the world, and not me.

What’s a girl to do with the gift? I can tell you what NOT to do. The gift was not given to wear as a badge for all to see how great YOU are (or how great I am). At Christmas time, when you receive a stellar gift, you wouldn’t immediately begin boasting about how wonderful of a person you are for having received such an amazing gift. No, you (hopefully) would immediately and profusely thank the one who gave you the gift. In fact, you might feel very humbled at receiving such a nice gift whether it was because of the extremely high cost or of the high value placed on the gift. No, the gift is not for use to puff us up. It’s meant, first, for His glory.

Likewise, the gift was not meant for you or me to keep for ourselves. Whether or not you do this out of fear or out of selfishness, the fact remains that this gift was meant for the greater good. Not for me to set it aside. It’s meant, secondly, for the edification of His church.

Let me tell you something. When you belong to God, He’s prepared good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). He is the Giver of all good things (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17). In fact, I’ve come to realize that He gives way more than I ever imagined! Seriously take some time to think about the things He gives, just in the spiritual sense (I’m not even talking about material things). You have a unique personality with unique gifts of the Spirit, and then on top of that, as you abide in Christ, He also produces fruit of the Spirit in you. You could in theory always be overflowing with God’s grace to others because of the way He’s poured His grace into you. A constant flow from the Father to you to others, resulting in His glory, flowing right back to Him.

What’s holding you back in living out these good works which God prepared for you and equipped you to fulfill (2 Peter 1:3)? Many times it’s just believing that it’s true! Will you believe God’s word about yourself and about Him? May I encourage you today that you are an important member in God’s kingdom, designed to edify His church and bring Him glory. Think of all the times you’ve needed to know you are loved, and someone calls you up just to chat. That was Him, using one of His people, to show you love. Or the time you felt like a failure in any area of life, and a random person “just happens” to tell you how good you’re doing in that very area. It blows my mind that all of this that is for His glory actually benefits us too in the process! Only this gracious God could make it so. To be so jealous for His name and glory while still managing to bless us as we seek to bring Him this glory is truly a thing of beauty and grace. Do you see what I mean by His lavish gift giving?

Here’s your pep talk then. You feel like telling someone you admire her courage in speaking up about her faith but you think it’s might sound silly. Do it anyway. You never know when you might be His voice to that bride of Christ.

You feel like telling that girl who is always dressed so beautifully that she is beautiful and reflects Him but you think it might be awkward. Do it anyway. Be the voice.

You feel like helping out behind the scenes but you think that they don’t need your help or that it won’t make a difference. Do. it. anyway. Use the gifts.

Whatever it is that you feel like or you know you should be doing, do it! What’s flowing into you and how can you pour it out as a beautiful offering back to the One who gave it?

P.S. If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I refer to “gifts” that are spiritual in nature, feel free to visit this website to learn more about spiritual gifts: http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/.

When the Tables Turn: Lessons from a Child

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You gotta love it when your 6-year-old son nails you about something you’re doing wrong.

We try to teach our two oldest sons that obedience is important and that there are consequences when they disobey. We also try to teach them that life isn’t about following the rules so that people will love them (or, on the grander scale, that God will love them). It’s a tricky balance because on the one hand, they disobey a lot and encounter lots of consequences. On the other hand we don’t want to encourage a performance-based spirituality.

My simplest solution is to share out loud when I mess up and to ask for Jesus’ help in front of them (and sometimes apologize to them when said mess up involves yelling at them). It is the simplest yet hardest thing to do some days. That is exactly how it went down last week.

The day started out just like every other day, except for some reason I was completely irritated. Not a single person had talked to me that morning, so I couldn’t blame it on anyone. Shucks. But then my second oldest continually got himself into trouble. Grabbing an ornament here. Breaking apart a toy there. Spilling his cup on purpose. Disregarding what I’d just said FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME. Ok, so I exaggerate. But it felt like that, I assure you. Plus, I’m already irritated for no reason, so it just makes my nerves prickle. As we’re getting in the car, I can feel the irritation rising as I’m waiting with little patience for the boys to get themselves buckled. So I say, “I am sorry for being grumpy today. I need Jesus to change my attitude. Lord, please change my heart and help me to calm down.” Whew. Baby steps.

We run our errands and get home (in one piece) and the second oldest starts in on the usual things that get him into trouble. After the 10th transgression (or something like that), I give up on saying anything nice or calm. If he’s not going to listen, maybe he’ll hear when I get louder. That’s how it works, right?

After I lecture my second oldest on this last defiant act, my 6-year-old whips his head around and says, “Mommy, you need to pray and ask Jesus to help you.”

Oh.

Really?

So I say what any spiritually mature mom would say. “Well, I think we should pray for him because he doesn’t know how to obey!”

Nice.

So then my oldest says, “But mommy, you are angry.” Ugh. He’s so right. I’ve been owned by a 6-year-old.

I retreat, realize how ridiculous I must sound, and swallow my pride. “Jesus, help me to be wise with my words and be patient with my children as I teach them about You.” Then I get to apologize to my child who has just received a nice, unnecessary tongue lashing from me.

I never knew that these teachable moments which were intended for my children would turn out to be more for me than for them.

I’m thinking a few verses may need to go up in my kitchen:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harshword stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Will I still mess up? Yes, you bet I will. This life is meant to be lived depending on the One who saved me and continues to save me. He made me holy and continues to make me holy. The sanctification process is just that. A process. It’s not a “try harder and maybe you’ll get better” spirituality. It’s not a “boot straps” religion that requires you to just be tough and get over it. It’s more about admitting when we’re wrong, asking Him to change our hearts, and walking in the truth that He speaks in that moment. Obedience. Grace. Intermingled in a beautiful dance. I hope I can keep in step and follow His lead.

When Will You Learn Your Lesson?

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You’ve had those days. You start out well with a nice, refreshing Bible study, putting your mind and heart squarely on what God’s word says. Then you walk out of your room to go snuggle with your four-year-old son (whom you promised you’d snuggle with in the morning), only to find him no where in his room. You search the house. You call his name. No son. No answer. Then you go to his 2 year-old brother’s room. You open the door then quickly wished you hadn’t. For in that moment you beheld a disaster. Board books everywhere. Aquafor lotion open and half gone on the floor. Vicks vapor rub open and half gone next to the bed. Baby oil completely gone. Two travel size baby lotion bottles open. One tube of aquafor, one tube of lanolin, one tube of Neosporin all nearly gone. And then to top it off, sprinkles of baby powder everywhere.

I begin to cry because I remembered that instead of going crazy with anger, you should show your kid how sad you are that he has done this terrible thing. So I begin the lecture on how sad I am at what he’s done and at how much he’s wasted.

In all the rage and sadness I hadn’t even looked at my two boys yet. As I’m starting the clean up, I finally look at the culprits. There they stand, in my two-year-old son’s bed, naked (mind you the two year old is not potty trained…) and with every manner of lotion and oil slathered in their hair. The bed is also slathered with the aforesaid mentioned lotions and oils and powders. The books, the walls, the toys, the boys…everything is a complete mess. I couldn’t speak for at least 5 seconds (that’s a long time, right?).

That’s when I completely lost it. No more tears. No, it was time to yell. I quickly ordered my four year old out of the bed and told him to go get some clothes on. The two year old was innocent in my opinion but because of the mess I made him stay in the bed just so I could clean up the area and then start a bath. I look back at my 4 year old who is still standing there as if he didn’t just hear me bark my orders. Uh, did I stutter? You’re about to lose your life, child, you’d better get going. So I lift him out of the crib, and he runs to his room. I get madder as I begin wiping baby oil and aquafor off of books and toys and the bed. Most of the oil has soaked into the board books. I’m sure the oil and powder and lotion is also in the carpet. Lovely. As I clean, I just yell, “I can’t believe you’ve done this. Why didn’t you think. You know you’re not supposed to get these books down. Why would you get into these lotions? Did you know that you could have hurt yourself or your brother with these things? You have absolutely wasted my time this morning. I’m going to have to clean up this mess then give you both baths. You’re in so much trouble, mister.”

I finally separate the non-oily books from the oily ones and wipe down the bed frame with a blanket that’s already sprinkled with baby powder. Then as I am about to get my two year old out of his bed, I realize he’s peed all over his sheets and two blankets that were thrown into the mix. Even better. So I start a pile of laundry in his floor then get him out and start the bath. Remember, I’ve left my four year old in his room to get dressed. I peek in there to make sure he’s actually gotten dressed because so help me if he hasn’t…

Thankfully he was dressed and waiting. I tell him again that he’s in big trouble and slam his door, telling him to wait until I’m finished bathing his brother. I get the two year old clean (except his hair…I learned later that the shampoo did NOTHING to wash out all of the lotions and oils out of his hair) and get a diaper on him. I send him off with a small lecture telling him that what they’d done in his room was a “no no”.

I go get my four year old, and he’s sitting in his room playing. Playing. How could he be playing when he should be mourning the fact that he’s just disobeyed his mom, wrecked his brother’s room, wasted practically every bottle and tube in my son’s room, and given his brother these products to possibly ingest and to definitely make a mess? I lay out his behavior and he knows the consequences. Spanking. Three swats. He tells me I shouldn’t have hurt his bottom. Well, son, you shouldn’t have “x, y, z…”

His bath is done. He gets his clothes back on. We get our breakfast and then he does his school work. It’s all I can do to refrain from being in punishment mode all morning. The cold shoulder. The angry answer. The sarcastic remark. I don’t want to be THAT mom. So I push on through, fighting every feeling in me to explode at every infraction, be them intentional or not, important or not.

This is my chore day. I have to get laundry done and go get groceries. I make sure my four year old realizes again that he’s wasted my morning and has set us back in our schedule to get to the store (ugh…this makes me cringe reading back over it). And all day it goes like this. I get angry over and over based on his decisions from this morning. I keep re-hashing it. I realize I’m just so scared that this four year old is never going to learn to obey. If he can’t learn to obey me, how is he ever going to learn to obey God? I’ve written him off as a failure for all of his life because he can’t get this one lesson down… perfectly… right now (and keep in mind, this is my rule follower son!). I even tell him a few times during lunch, “son, you’ve got to learn your lesson or you’ll keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.” I remind him of how much I hate to spank him and that I’d rather him just obey. When I ask him to tell me what’s he’s learned, he shrugs his shoulders and gives me the “I don’t know” answer. Again, I’m scared he’s not going to learn so how can I force him to learn his lesson? Maybe if I lecture him a few more times, he’ll learn. Maybe if I add another consequence, he’ll learn. Or maybe not.

My bible study lesson this morning? Living in the truth of who God says you are. Believing Him when He says He’s made me courageous, adequate as His servant, and that I’m accepted not on my own merit but by the blood of His Son. How could my behavior today have taught my son anything about the truth of who he is? I was being fearful (not courageous) as I parented. I felt completely inadequate to deal with this situation properly, and I truly was, because I was trying to fix it in my own strength and through feeling my way around the situation. I was essentially punishing my son over and over with my words, making him feel like he couldn’t even gain my approval until he was perfect. Ouch. That one hurts the worst.

So I began to speak the truth to him about who God says he is. God has called you to be a man of integrity and honesty. To obey Him and love Him with all of your heart. To be courageous. That he is acceptable no matter what he does. And then I apologize for my crazy explosions. God help me.

What I wouldn’t give to have started out that way. I’m not really any different from my children when it comes to learning my lesson. The difference is I have a perfect Father who hasn’t written me off as a failure just because I can’t learn my lesson perfectly today. He gives grace, undeserved. And when we feel inadequate, He supplies the strength and the wisdom to make us adequate. Acceptable. Thank you, Father. I’ll take it all.

{P.S. This happened back in October of last year as we were packing up our home to move. Looking back at this, I just giggle because he was just doing what kids do…making messes and having fun doing it. It’s too bad I was too stressed out to see that. Lesson learned.}

Just Try Harder

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vine

I’ll never forget the message I received loud and clear one day as I was driving home from work some 5 years ago. I was listening to a Chip Ingram message from his Living on the Edge broadcast about the pressure we put on ourselves to just try harder and do better. See, I’m one of those people who is very critical of myself (and unfortunately of others…I’m working on that…), and I get into this mentality that when I mess up I should just try harder. I should beat myself up over not being perfect. I should feel really ashamed and wallow in it for a while. Ridiculous? Absolutely.

What does that even mean? To try harder? To be a “better Christian”? What does trying harder even look like? More self effort? More tears from failure and frustration? Or does it look like the Pharisee? More pride in self effort?

I’m thinking I want to stay clear of all of that. And you should too, frankly.

In his message, Chip mentioned that he was working with one of his sons on lifting weights. This event came after he and his wife were helping him through some life difficulties, including the son feeling like he was failing in some serious ways.  The son was having difficulty with lifting the weights (because he had just started and wasn’t very strong yet), and Chip kept yelling to him to “try harder!” “try harder!” The son would strain with all of his might, but the results were the same. He just couldn’t try hard enough.

Chip, being the wise father he is, had a great moment with his son at this point because he was able to lovingly direct his son that trying harder is not the answer. And trying harder in your Christian walk isn’t the answer for any of us either.

Let’s get one thing straight. There are definitely passages in Scripture that direct us to work out our faith with fear and trembling, to be good stewards of what God has given us, to run the race with perseverance. There’s nothing in my Bible that says we should just coast through this life being lazy bums because we don’t want to confront sin in our lives. Faith without works is dead, says James, the brother of Jesus. But there is a balance and a small twist to all of this.

 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Let this soak in. Let it pour over you like a refreshing stream of life. Read through the lines and see the grace in this. It is Christ’s power in you that allows you to do any good thing, to overcome any stronghold of sin, to run this race of life to His glory. It has absolutely nothing to do with you trying harder to better at this whole Christian thing. It is getting to the end of yourself, realizing you can’t do it, and watching God pick up and do beyond all you could ask or imagine. It’s when you can’t explain how it happened because there would be no reason for it to happen by your own power. It’s abiding in Him.

I am the vinenowatermark

When Christ spoke to the people about who He was, at one point He makes a statement about being the Vine. And we are the branches. We can’t ever be the Vine. And these branches can’t ever produce any grapes apart from being attached to the Vine.

Think of it, a piece of a grape branch lays on the path right next to the vine. It has no fruit on it, but it has a lot of PASSION to bear fruit. It DESIRES to be fruitful. It really wants to have a beautiful cluster of grapes growing on it, but try as it may, it just can’t seem to make grapes. Oh, it tries very hard. But the fact remains that it’s not connected to the vine.

You and I must realize that we have to ABIDE in the Vine, drawing from the POWER of Christ and the Holy Spirit, in order to conquer that habitual sin, to do any good thing, and to truly run the race set before us. Stop trying harder and go before Him with completely honesty that you can’t do it, and then ask Him for His power to be made perfect in your weakness. For when you are weak, then you are strong.

Will you or I get it right immediately? Probably not. Most likely not. Abiding in the Vine is not a one time event though. Chip Ingram went on to tell of the long hours he spent with his son in weight training. Eventually, his son could lift those weights that were impossible for him in the beginning. But it took time, and it wasn’t about him trying harder so much as it was trusting in the process of strengthening those muscles little by little (and being disciplined to stick to it). So, be weak and proud of it.

Take care to give Him the glory by boasting in your weakness.

Then watch Him go to work and amaze you.

vine abide

Theology Thursday: Covenant of Grace

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From CreationSwap

Welcome back to Theology Thursday! I left you hanging a bit on my last post about covenants. I’m probably not sorry for it though because maybe that means you’ve come back to hear more. 🙂

Let’s recap. The Covenant of Grace is summed up in two simple statements: God did it all. We reap the benefits. God chose to make a covenant with mankind, and by doing this, He also fulfills the requirements of the covenant for both Him and us. We saw this in the story of God and Abram in Genesis 15, and we find the fulfillment of the covenant at the cross and resurrection.

Christ came as the fulfillment of the covenant. It’s a thing of beauty. Because Jesus is both God and man, He is perfectly able to fulfill the requirements of both sides of the covenant. Just like Abram, we could not keep the covenant, so He did it for us. But this time, unlike the story of Abram, Jesus tangibly became the sacrifice that met the requirement of the covenant. He gave His blood and His body like those animals which Abram dissected and God walked through. Only this time, the effects became permanent. The all-sufficient sacrifice.

You might be wondering why He had to give His blood (and let’s get one thing straight, He didn’t HAVE to give it. He WILLINGLY gave His life – John 10:11,15, 17). What’s up with all the blood?!? Let me take you through a quick trip of the Old Testament concerning the issue of blood (or sacrifice).

Genesis 9:4 – God tells them not to eat an animal that still has it’s blood in it because “the life is in the blood.”

Genesis 9:6 – God then goes on to say never to kill a person because man is made “in God’s image” and from the dead person’s blood, the murderer’s blood will be demanded.

Exodus 12:13 – God tells the Hebrews to paint the blood of a lamb (that they were to kill themselves) on their doorposts and that when He saw it, He would “pass over” them (in other words, not kill them).

Exodus 24:8, 29:12, 29:20-21 – God instructs the sprinkling or splashing of blood on the people, on the altar/horns of the altar, and on His priests as a way to consecrate them.

Leviticus 17:11 (also v. 14) – “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” **major verse**

You can see that the life of a person or animal is in the blood, and for there to be a proper atonement for sins, there must be the surrendering of life – or blood as we’ve learned here. God made a covenant,

  • starting with Adam (and there was shedding of blood – remember the animals God had to kill in order to clothe them?),
  • then with Noah (God makes the covenant after MUCH blood was shed in the flood and required sacrifices after they got off the ark – Genesis 8:1-9:17),
  • then with Abram (we already saw the shedding of blood in this story – Genesis 15),
  • then with David (this breaks a little from the issue of blood/sacrifice and is a promise of an everlasting kingdom – 2 Samuel 7),
  • and finding it’s fulfillment in Christ (Jesus, at the Last Supper, holds up the wine and bread signifying His blood and body, given to us as the “new covenant in [His] blood” Luke 22:20 and see also Hebrews 8-10 for further explanation).

It’s enough information to make your head spin…I realize this. So why does it matter? I could take this in a million directions because there really are lots of reasons why this matters, but let’s keep it simple. We were hopeless to save ourselves from sin, and trust me, everyone has a sin problem. We’re born with it. (I feel another Theology Thursday post coming on…) God comes to us, offering a relationship in the form of a covenant, and it is literally our only hope. Only a perfect sacrifice (the blood) can cover the effects of our sin, and He knows we don’t measure up (it’s that whole sin thing again…we just aren’t pure). So His plan is to be both the One who offers the relationship and the one who makes us acceptable to be in relationship with Him.  God did it all. We reap the benefits.

We can go before Him in full confidence knowing that we are acceptable to Him because Christ was the acceptable sacrifice. We no longer approach the holy Father as strangers covered in the dirtiness of our own sin but as children covered by the blood of His perfect Son. He sprinkles it on us, and we are made pure…holy…consecrated for His divine purpose. Are we sinless? No. But the good news is that He empowers us to follow Him, giving us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

So what’s your response to this generous God?

Introducing: Theology Thursdays

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One of my favorite things to talk about is the Bible. Related to this, I also LOVE theology. I took three systematic theology graduate courses about five years ago, and I have been hooked ever since. I’m hoping you’ll be hooked too after enjoying some of my posts related to theology. I’m definitely no expert, but I certainly love to think about these things (and you should too).

The reason that theology is so interesting to me is not just for the benefit of knowing something that sounds intelligent, but it has more to do with what we do with the theology behind the passage. It’s the famous, “so what?” question. Sure, it’s nice to know things that scholars love to dig into and research, but what will we do with it for our lives? If we have knowledge but are completely unchanged by what we know, is it really worth knowing? That’s why I’m writing Theology Thursdays (although it remains to be seen if I will actually stick with Thursdays…we shall see).

One of my favorite topics in the theology course had to do with covenants. There are varying views concerning this topic alone, but for my post, I’ll be looking at covenant theology (rather than dispensationalism…if you don’t even know what that is, great, neither do I, really! haha). Also please note that this is going to be very brief so you don’t get bored 😉

You are wondering what is meant by covenantal theology (right? please say yes). To boil it down: God did it all. We reap the benefits. Seriously! That’s it. But for those who aren’t really satisfied with that answer. I’ll give the main points from one of my lectures (Systematic Theology III with Douglas Kelly at RTS).

1. God sovereignly establishes the covenant.

I can almost hear you saying, “ok, and?” Well, it means that God is the one who initiated the covenant. What covenant, you ask? The covenant of grace. It is every covenant (or promise) that God makes with every human in the Bible (starting with Adam, then Noah, Abraham, David, and finding its fulfillment in Jesus). I’m not talking about the promises like Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you…), but about true covenantal promises that have to do with God initiating the promise and expecting the individual to agree to the terms. In other words both God and the individual are committed to the covenant. (Something else that can get confusing is the issue of multiple covenants. The way covenantal theology sees it is, God makes one covenant – the covenant of grace – and each of the successive covenants are just a part of the greater covenant. I believe this is one point that differs from the dispensational view.) It is important to note that a covenant is an agreement between two parties. This comes in handy later, trust me.

2. God sovereignly administers the covenant.

Establish. Administer. Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to. No, it’s actually not the same thing just said in a different way. In this point, God determines the nature of the relationship to the covenant and the obligations for the individuals agreeing to the covenant. In other words, man doesn’t get to bargain with God about the terms. God sets it up.

3. God sovereignly fulfills the conditions of the covenant.

EEEeeeeEE! This may be my favorite part. 🙂 You see, when two individuals enter into a covenant, both are required to fulfill their side of the bargain. If one party does not keep his end of the covenant, it means death for him (there is a great video by Ray VanDerlaan on this very topic). Do you remember when God makes the covenant with Abraham (then Abram) and has him cut up several animals, then God (the smoking firepot and flaming torch) “walks” through the blood? (You’ll find that in Genesis 15.) It was a very sobering moment for Abram because when God did this, He essentially said, “may this happen to Me if I do not hold up My side of the covenant.” But what about Abram? He didn’t walk through the blood! This is because God elects to fulfill the conditions of the covenant for both Him and Abram (we’ll see an even greater picture of this in Christ). The main point here is that none of us could possibly hold true to the covenant with God, and He knows it.

4. God sovereignly sustains the covenant.

If this doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will (especially since the last point was pretty awesome too). God by His will empowers believers to fulfill the requirements of the covenant. In other words, it is Him at work in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He gives us faith, leads us to repentance, softens our hearts for obedience (all important requirements in keeping the covenant). It’s absolutely beautiful. Take it in. He gives us everything we need to be faithful in covenant to Him. Only my God would think of doing something like that.

So there it is! Four points about covenants. Sorry it ended up being a little longer than I originally thought! There’s so much more I wanted to say…maybe another day. 🙂 Stay tuned for the “so what” discussion (since that is, after all, why I wanted to write about theology in the first place!).